Review

A Fountain Filled With Blood: A Reverend Clare Fergusson Mystery

by Julia Spencer-Fleming



Despite its title, which was taken from an old hymn by the English
poet William Cowper, A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD is neither grisly
nor especially violent. This book, the second in a series by new
author Julia Spencer-Fleming, is a traditional mystery that is
unlikely to offend anyone and quite likely to entertain many.

Clare Fergusson is a former Army helicopter pilot, now an Episcopal
priest in the small upstate New York town of Millers Kill. In her
late 30s and unmarried, she has in general a healthy, no-nonsense
attitude toward life and a particular calling toward her religion,
which is also now her livelihood. Her faith is strong but
unobtrusive --- there's no proselytizing here. Rather, the author
uses the occasional inclusion of a prayer or a bit of ritual to add
atmosphere while also providing insight into Clare's
character.

Here, as in the first book in the series, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER,
Clare partners up with Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne to solve a crime
into whose path she, literally, stumbles. It seems someone around
Millers Kill doesn't like gay men. Two are badly beaten in a manner
that suggests a hate crime and then one more is found dead; he's
the body Clare stumbles into. There happens to be a connection
between the dead man and a young couple whose marriage she is to
perform in a couple of weeks, which gives Clare opportunity to
learn some things Russ and his deputies might not. Because of her
military training and a healthy dose of curiosity --- of the sort
that amateur detectives must have or these books would never go
anywhere --- Clare doesn't hesitate to learn all she can, though at
some cost to herself.

The small-town setting will feel familiar to a large number of
readers, regardless of the specific upper New York State locale;
there is a sort of comforting togetherness going on. There's a
Fourth of July celebration in the park and a town meeting where a
new development is opposed on environmental grounds. There's a big
old Victorian house on the edge of town that has been turned into a
bed and breakfast and is run by a pair of openly gay men who are
life-partners. There are summer tourists with their stiff, new
city-bought leisure clothes, necessary to the fragile economy but
getting in the way. Even the nature of the crimes and their impact
on the community seem familiar, especially when Clare proposes to
her vestry that their church should show support for the victims of
a crime that the older, uptight vestry members would rather pretend
had no connection to sexuality.

An interestingly different thread of tension runs through the
entire book, in the form of a strong sexual attraction between the
priest and the sheriff, who not only is a very married man but also
loves his wife --- and they both know it. These two characters are
extremely well drawn, real people in a very personal
conundrum.

Spencer-Fleming is at her best with action scenes --- most
interesting in that she portrays them vividly yet without
gratuitous violence. She writes so well that she doesn't need blood
and gore to get our attention. In the latter half of the book,
there is an extended episode in which Clare uses her helicopter
pilot skills, honed during the Gulf War, that will have you
breathless as you await the outcome, unable to guess what it will
be.

For readers who prefer conventional mysteries --- and for anyone
who might like a change of pace from the tougher, darker thrillers
--- A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD would be a good choice. Especially
since, if you like it, the author's previous novel, IN THE BLEAK
MIDWINTER, is now out in paperback.

Reviewed by Ava Dianne Day on January 22, 2011

A Fountain Filled With Blood: A Reverend Clare Fergusson Mystery
by Julia Spencer-Fleming

  • Publication Date: April 19, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312995431
  • ISBN-13: 9780312995430